There are indications that Akwa Ibom State Government under the leadership of Governor Udom Emmanuel has abolished free and compulsory education policy in the State introduced by his predecessor, Sen. Godswill Akpabio.
According to State Government circular dated 11 September, 2017 with reference No. AK/SSEB/AD/3/Vol.IV/158 and signed by one Mr. Itohowo Umoh, Director of School Services, for Executive Chairman, State Secondary Education Board, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat which copies have been given to principals and head teachers in public schools, pupils and students are to compulsorily pay N3,200 each for cutlasses, weeding hoes and drawing board while another N1,500 are to be paid for exercise books.
The circular with the title “Production Of Cutlasses, Weeding Hoes And Drawing Boards By Students Of Government Schools In The State And Sales To All Pupils And Students In The State,” indicates that the State Government is to sell the items.
It reads, “Sequel to the Ministry of Education approval letter No.MOE/EDS/17/163 of 8th August, 2017 on the above subject matter, I am directed to inform you to direct principal of schools in your zone to ensure that all students in your schools pay and collect the underlisted items at the point of registration for the 2017/2018 academic session. This arrangement is to ensure that all students have these items for use in compound work.
“The prices for the items as stated in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Akwa Ibom State Government and E.E Ventures indicate as follows: cutlasses – N300.00, weeding hoes – N400.00, drawing board N2,500 respectively.
“Principals and Head of Schools are to obtain these items from Ministry of Education Warehouse, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo before resumption of 2017/2018 session. Please treat as important”.
The Sensor learned that apart from the three listed items, government has also made purchase of exercise books at the cost of N1,500 compulsory.
The money for the items it was further revealed is said to be indirect way of re-introducing fees into public schools, thus, put to an end to the free education enjoyed in the last eight years.
Investigation by The Sensor reveals that cutlasses, weeding hoes, drawing board and exercise books are sold in the open market at the rate of N150.00., N250.00, N1,200.00 and N750.00 respectively.
Meanwhile, parents have condemned the exploitative plans of government despite saying that education still remain free and compulsory in the State. A parent who gave his name as Mr. Aniefiok Umoh said that with the cost of the items as compared to what is sold in the market, the State Government is no-longer sincere in its free education policy.
Umoh who said he has four children in public schools in the State, added that while he is still battling to provide uniform and other items like books for them, the forced items is a setback to him owing to his meager sources of income. He called on the State Government to allow parents purchase the items in the market at a much cheaper rate for their children.
Another parent, Mrs. Arit Umoette told The Sensor that her three children are yet to resume school one week after resumption due to the fact she is yet to provide uniform and other items for them.
Umoette who is a widow, called on Governor Udom Emmanuel to intervene to help her children and those from less privilege families to resume school.
She said, “I had plans to purchase school items for my children on credit and pay later but the decision by government to sell it directly at a higher rate is rather unfortunate. If something is not urgently done to check the new plan by government, it will make non-sense of the free and compulsory education in the State and many children will again be denied the opportunity to go to school. I am appealing for quick government intervention.